Tag Archives: Isaiah 59

Hope and Despair in a House of Cards

So justice is far from us,
    and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
    for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Isaiah 59:9 (NIV)

Wendy and I have been watching the acclaimed Netflix series House of Cards over the past year or so. Last night we finished the third season. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are amazing actors. The story is compelling and the plot has some incredible twists that have caught me completely off guard. (FYI: There is some very graphic content, for those who desire to avoid it.)

Over the past couple of episodes Wendy and I have both felt the heaviness that comes when you find yourself mired in dark, depressing storylines. Even Shakespeare’s Hamlet gets depressing by the end of the play; The stage littered with the senseless dead. Last night Wendy and I began to analyze and unpack what in the series had brought us to feel this with House of Cards.

As we began to analyze the characters in the show, it struck us that, across almost 40 episodes the writers had not given us one redemptive character. In fact, on multiple occasions the main characters toy with redemption, play on the edges of doing the right thing, only to be sucked back into the tangled web of greed, lust, power and deceit. In the world of House of Cards, goodness equals weakness. Trying to do the right thing makes you a victim or a fool. It is, admittedly, a bleak vision of our political class.

I contrast this with stories of real people I know and have met. They are stories of individuals who were mired in the types of dark places embodied by House of Cards. In these stories, however, a mysterious mixture of personal courage and divine grace led people to turn from dark places to be enveloped in Light. Greed gave way to generosity. Lust gave way to love. Humility replaced pride. The forsaken found forgiveness.

I found it a bit of synchronicity that in today’s chapter, the prophet Isaiah spins a poetic description of those lost in the darkness. Isaiah describes those entangled and entrapped in the consequences of their own wrong motives, and perpetually poor choices. Living in those places, as I can personally recall, does feel like a house of cards. You live in constant fear that the whole thing will fall apart, and it eventually does.

As with the stories I recall this morning, redemption comes at the end of Isaiah’s poetic vision. The Redeemer arrives in a eucatastrophic moment. With the Redeemer comes repentance, Spirit, presence, and peace. Darkness gives way to Light. Those are stories to which I am drawn. Nevertheless, I think I’ll stick with House of Cards for season four. I’m not one to give up hope on redemption.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 59

Tom & Girls 2010 05 "As for me," God says, "this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I've placed upon you and the words that I've given you to speak, they're not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won't ever stop." God's orders. Isaiah 59:21 (MSG)

In the bay window of our dining room is a Dutch family Bible. It belonged my paternal Great-grandparents. I also have the Bible my maternal grandfather's uncle, James Hendrickson, used in the pulpit as a Methodist pastor in Iowa and Illinois. Another treasured posession that's passed on to me is my maternal great-grandmother's Bible. Great Grandma Daisy was the matriarch of my mother's family, and her children and grandchildren tell stories of how her faith held the family together.

It's been a time of transition in the past year. One daughter is married and off on her own. The other is graduated, moved out to take a job as a nanny, and heads to college in the fall. The nest is empty, and I have to be honest that I've been grieving a bit of late. I told a friend this, and he asked if I was surprised by my grief. I guess that I am.

I've always known that my job was to raise my children to release them. It's part of the faith journey and life cycle Isaiah alludes to. It's part of the faith covenant that carries on through time like Bibles passed on to bear witness to the faith of previous generations. I'm so blessed to watch my daughters stepping out to be the next generation. It's good. It's right. It's as it should be.

There's just a little sadness in the transition.